Modern art from Indonesia is taking over the ground floor of the NGV and will “break down any preconceptions,” says curator Kelly Gellatly
Two young artists at the frontier of Indonesian art are set to educate the public on what’s hot in Southeast Asia. RALLY showcases the contrasting brilliance of installation king Jompet Kuswidananto and kaleidoscopic muralist Eko Nugroho, and is the first major exhibition of modern Indonesian art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Nevertheless, the NGV’s contemporary art curator, Kelly Gellaty, believes our opportunity to see the work of artists from the region will continue to grow.
“It’s largely off the back of the longstanding success of the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) at QAG/GOMA and the great work of contemporary art spaces such as Sydney’s Gallery 4A,” she says. “Having said that, RALLY is the first major exhibition of the work of contemporary Indonesian artists at NGV.”
Eko Nugroho and Jompet Kuswidananto are part of “Indonesia’s new generation of artists,” according to NGV director Tony Ellwood. Nugroho’s street art-inspired work greets you on entry with a specially commissioned mural on the Waterwall. Kuswidananto’s The Commoners is to be found inside, featuring bodiless figures in ornate military uniform marching nowhere, suspended, in Federation Court.
“I have been travelling to collect clues, signs, artefacts, and evidences of cultural change in various forms such as interviews, folk songs, poetry, architecture, performing arts, costumes and many other,” says Kuswidananto. “In my works I borrow, replicate and even steal those materials and present their narratives … The bodiless figures are representing the idea of the fluidity of identity, while the colonial military uniforms, among other characters I have been working with, is one of the evidences of cultural change.”
Yogyakarta, where both Jompet and Eko are from, has a vibrant art scene. They and many of their fellows are increasingly active on the contemporary scene internationally but unlike Australia, “there is very little governmental support for artists,” says Gellatly. “At the level of the artists themselves, Yogyakarta has a very supportive artist community, and artists seem to band together in collectives which enables them to support each other, show and promote their work as a group. Eko established the collective FFR (Fight for Rice) in 2007 as a means for artists to fundraise to support their practice and fund future projects.”
Fight for Rice sells a range of artist-made products including T-shirts, embroidered bags and badges, stickers and limited editions of small-scale sculptures. Their pop-up shop off the foyer is open during the exhibition.